Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pittsburgh-born Schmitt shatters Olympic record in 200 free - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh-born Allison Schmitt celebrates her gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle at the London Olympics on Tuesday, July 31, 2012. (AP)


By USA Today

Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 9:56 p.m.
Updated 8 minutes ago

LONDON — Allison Schmitt’s fist was in the air, celebrating a gold medal, before her competition finished the race.

That’s how well the 22-year-old who was born in Pittsburgh was at the Aquatics Center in London’s Olympic Park on Tuesday.

Schmitt smashed the Olympic record in the women’s 200-meter freestyle, touching the wall in 1 minute, 53.61 seconds, more than a second faster than the previous best mark and almost two seconds ahead of France’s Camille Muffat, who took silver in 1:55.58. Bronte Barratt of Australia grabbed gold in 1:55.81.

â€Å"I couldn’t be happier right now,” said Schmitt, who returns to school at the University of Georgia this fall after taking a year off to train for the Olympics. â€Å"Walking up, seeing the No. 1 next to me, and I had an amazing time.”

Schmitt, who grew up in Canton, Mich., is making quick work of her competition in the pool — and in the Olympic medal tally.

The gold was the third in three races for Schmitt, who won a silver medal and set an American record in the women’s 400-meter freestyle Sunday and who won bronze — and also set an American relay record — with her teammates in the 800 freestyle relay Saturday.

For now she said she is keeping her hardware in a safe place at the Athletes Village: â€Å"They’re somewhere in my room right now. A secret place. I kind of stashed them.”

Schmitt has one more race — and one more shot at a medal — in the 800 freestyle relay Wednesday night.

Her teammates couldn’t be happier about her success.

â€Å"If you look at her on deck, that is who she is,” said Kathleen Hersey, who swims the 200 butterfly. â€Å"She smiles all the time. She never has anything bad to say about anyone. She’s always encouraging. Always positive. I could ramble on about how wonderful a person, just what a light, Allison is.

Schmitt bested Frederica Pellegrini’s 1:54.82, the previous Olympic record set in Beijing, with her effort Tuesday.

The secret to her success was as much about rest as it was anything else as the Olympics approached.

She worked with coaches to find the right balance so she would have enough left to make a big kick when she needed it.

The result? Schmitt pulled away from the 200-meter free field as the distance race unfolded.

At the halfway point, she had an 0.85-second lead. With just 50 meters to go, she’d pushed it to 1.57 seconds.

â€Å"At (U.S. Olympic) trials I was a little heavy in the legs, and I could feel it coming home,” said Schmitt, whose brother, Derek, swam for Pitt from 2007-08. â€Å"And the strategy for today was to lay off the legs a little so I could come home stronger.”

The five-time NCAA champion swimmer at Georgia redshirted this season (she has a year of eligibility remaining) to train at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club under Michael Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman.

â€Å"When I touched the wall, it all sank in,” she said. â€Å"All the support that I’ve gotten throughout this whole week and throughout my whole career. And everyone out there, the coaches and my family who has supported me, I couldn’t be happier right now.”

Staff writer Meredith Qualls contributed to this story.

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